Quick and Easy Comprehension Check

23 January 2017 / Leave a Comment
Quick and easy comprehension check to help plan your lessons
We've all been there, you know when you've designed a perfect unit, created engaging lesson plans, taught your heart out, and yet you still feel like your students just don't quite get it. It happens to even the best of teachers. Try this idea to find out what they are missing!

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7 Uses for Colored Dot Stickers

19 January 2017 / Leave a Comment
Teacher Hack: Teachers are always looking for inexpensive and effective ways to organize their classrooms. Take a minute to check out these simple ideas for using colored dot stickers to make your life a little easier.
Teachers are always looking for inexpensive and effective ways to organize their classrooms. Take a minute to check out these simple ideas for using colored dot stickers to make your life a little easier.
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5 Practical Ideas to Help YOU Avoid Teacher Burnout!

16 January 2017 / 1 comment
Let's face it. Teacher burnout is commonplace in our profession. The good news is you can implement strategies to avoid this mind-numbing, exhausting situation!
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A Better Way to Use Punch Cards in the Classroom

14 January 2017 / 2 comments
Learn how to upgrade a standard behavior or incentive punch card with this simple hack to make a sticker punch card for instant positive reinforcement and long-term goal setting in one.

Check out this classroom management hack to make Emoji STICKER punch cards for incentives and positive reinforcement in the classroom.

What Are Punch Cards?

A punch card is a piece of cardstock usually with a student name and a certain amount of “slots” that are punched by the teacher.  The slots can be punched when the teacher observes positive student behaviors – this is usually discussed ahead with the student as part of a classroom management plan or an individual behavior plan.  
Check out this classroom management hack to make Emoji STICKER punch cards for incentives and positive reinforcement in the classroom.

You can also use punch cards to “save up” for something – for example a student receives a punch with every library book returned. Slots are typically punched with a traditional hole puncher.  Once the card is filled, the student earns either a prize or a non-tangible reward.

How to Use Punch Cards in the Classroom

There are many articles written about classroom rewards, incentives, punch cards, and the pros and cons of incentive-based classroom management systems.  Rather than debate the merits, I would advise teachers to read up on ways to use punch cards in the classroom and make their own informed decision. 

You know your students best and combined with best practices there are many ways to use punch cards that are worthwhile in the classroom. My one recommendation is to only punch for something positive, be mindful of the reward – is it achievable, is it extrinsic or intrinsic, is it meaningful – and to make objective and measurable goals.  

If you do use it for behavior, try to break the behavior into a specific positive one - rather than "good behavior" choose something concrete like "Raises hand at circle time" or "Pushes chair in."  For these type of goals, be sure to explain that students may not receive a punch EVERY time so the more they try, the more likely you will see it and punch it.

Also be sure to limit competition and comparison.  One way to do this is to have different goals for each student.  Students can even create their own goal to track. When students are involved in the process, they are more motivated to reach their goals too.  

My editable Emoji punch cards show in this article allow you to type in student names and goals / rewards so creating a different punch card for each student is easy.  I also find that differentiating punch cards and rewards reduces stress and students will earn punches at different times.

Punch Card Limitations

While punch cards do offer a visual recognition of achievement, some students struggle with long term rewards and might need feedback right away to continue to behavior.  In the beginning the punch itself provides that boost, but after a while some students may need more immediate recognition. 

For example, a student struggles with returning his take-home folder.  He creates a goal to track on his punch card so that each time he returns the folder, he get a punch.  After the card is full, he gets a special privilege…maybe he gets his pictures taken (holding the folder of course!) and his photo and card added to a Super Improver Wall or emailed home with a positive message.   However, for this particular student, filling the punch card is difficult and lengthy compared with his peers.  He feels frustrated and loses motivation.

Also, punch cards are limited in that the “progress” is only shown on the card itself.  This makes extra steps needed if you want to share these with parents.  Sending them back and forth opens up the chance that it will get lost.

Punch Card Hack

Solve the issues mentioned above by turning an ordinary punch card into a sticker punch card!  All you need to do is print punch cards onto full sheet sticker paper (or 4x4 large label paper).

Keep the back of the sticker paper on.  Depending on the “slots” of your punch card, you can use a circle puncher to punch out a space.  For my Emoji Punch Cards, each Emoji is roughly 16 mm or 5/8 inch so a circle puncher that punches that size works best.  

Check out this classroom management hack to make Emoji STICKER punch cards for incentives and positive reinforcement in the classroom.

After punching the Emoji out, remove the backing paper and voila, the Emoji is now a sticker!
The punch card still shows how many “slots” are used for long-term tracking, but now students receive an instant reward!

Check out this classroom management hack to make Emoji STICKER punch cards for incentives and positive reinforcement in the classroom.

You can have students keep stickers inside a take home folder or wear them home to share with families.  Students also like decorating their school supply bins and notebooks too.

Recommended Supplies

I recommend full sheets of printable sticker paper and labels.  The prices for this vary, but I have found the best deals on Amazon purchasing full sheet label paper. This Avery 8165 Label set comes in sets of 25, 50, 100, 500 sheets.  Since most punch cards print 4 to a page, you would not need more than 50 sheets for a year. You can also find off-brand label paper for even cheaper. Click the picture for more information about this package:



For punches, Amazon has a small selection including the Punch Bunch one I use but there are other options at Michaels and Hobby Lobby too.  Just be sure to use a punch that allows you to view the shape being punched so you can correctly line up the Emoji or other image on the punch card.  I have to flip mine upside down to view and then press, which isn't ideal but I'm used to it. 

My Emoji punch cards work best with a punch sized 16 mm or 5/8 inch. Click the images to see a quick sample of what is available:


If your punch cards have irregular slots or you want to save money, simply cut the sticker out in a square shape or use a larger sized circle punch.

Check out this classroom management hack to make Emoji STICKER punch cards for incentives and positive reinforcement in the classroom.

Have you ever used punch cards or other positive reinforcement classroom management techniques before? Share in the comments!

  



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8 Things All Teachers Forget When Returning from Christmas Break

11 January 2017 / Leave a Comment
Time to turn off the netflix, get out of your pajama pants, and pack your teacher bag.  It's back to school after Winter Break.  If you're like me, you might be double checking your calendar to find out where the heck all  your time went and planning for the week ahead.  

BUT WAIT!!!!  

Many teachers have the hardest time of their year right after winter break because they forget 8 simple things.  Hopefully these tips will get you and your class back to school and back on track.


1.  Review procedures.

The biggest mistake we make as teachers coming back from break is assuming that our kids remember how things run in the classroom.  Let's be real for a second and remind ourselves that they have been on break with little to no routines that relate to you and your classroom.  So be proactive instead of reactive by verbally and physically reviewing those procedures that make your class run.

2.  Remember to review routines

You know how hard it is after break to prep your lunch, outfit, and go to bed on time... your kids are also having a hard time getting back into the swing of things too.  A good idea to help your class be successful is review the routines of your classroom.

3.  Make parent contacts.

I can't stress how important this tip is to helping you make it to your next break and the end of the school year.  Take time either the day before or the first day back to try to call each parent.  It might be a daunting and sometimes tedious task, however it puts you back into their minds as a partner in their child's learning.   Try not to make negative phone calls during this time.  I like to think of this as a time to make deposits in my parents account.  The more you have called a parent about positives the more supportive they are with negatives.

4.  Check your class list.

It's sad, but many families choose Christmas break as a time to move because it is a natural break and makes for transitioning their families.  I like to check my class list at least 2 times before break is over just in case I have a student move in or out of my classroom.  Makes for easier planning and prep later.

5.  Restock supplies.

Now is the time to go through your school supplies and make a list of what you are low or out of.  You can take advantage of those teacher gift cards at this time.  Or send that list out to your parents to see if they are interested in helping out with a pack of glue sticks and sanitary wipes.  If that's not successful, at least you now know what to add to your grocery list this week.

6.  Plan ahead.

Yes.  I did just use the P word during Winter Break.  But now is the time for you to look ahead and decide what big projects you want to put into your calendar.  What will they need to be successful and about how much time can you devote to said projects?  Also think about where you want your kids to be by a certain point.  Are there any big test to consider and how are your kids going to be ready for said test?  Now is the time to think of these things before they sneak up on you.

7.  Spend time spiral teaching.

I know it's tempting to start that brand new unit on the first day back but remember your kids haven't had to practice those skills you taught back in December for a while.  Ease them back into it by reviewing previous material.  Play a game, do stations, etc.  You may think that your kids have already grasped it but you might just be reteaching to that one kid who didn't get it the first time.

8.  Make the best of the rest of the time.

So you are half way through your school year.  Think back to August.   Your kids came to you a bit younger and less experienced.  Since then you've watched them grow a bit taller, a bit smarter, and hopefully more mature.  You can look at the rest of your school year much like a glass that is filled half way.  You can lament in the teachers lounge and count down the days until the next break... OR.... You can think about the awesome opportunity you get by seeing how much your kids can grow.

Happy Teaching My Friends!


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Winter Writing Freebie

07 January 2017 / Leave a Comment
This quick project was inspired by this fun picture my daughter brought home from preschool. Isn't it adorable? At first, I assumed it was her version of a snowman...see the hole punched eyes and buttons, carrot nose, and arm? She informed me this was a MELTED snowman. So adorable!
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Sparking imagination in the Classroom

01 January 2017 / 1 comment
Imagination encircles the world.
Imagination can sometimes be scarce in a classroom. Does it deserve a place? It seems to be forgotten with the weight of additional testing, less recess time, and arts sometimes being excluded. When we try to find a place for imagination in our lessons, the lessons are usually more exciting and meaningful to the students and can result in more concrete learning.

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5 Websites for Teaching Problem-Solving

27 December 2016 / 1 comment

In this post, I've provided different websites that teach problem-solving and higher level thinking skills. Students will love these games.

Problem solving is an essential skill in teaching math and other subject areas. In fact, this is a skill that needs to be taught in early grades. It leads to students learning to ask questions and apply mathematical concepts in solving problems. Creating a classroom culture of problem-solvers is an important element in developing 21st Century learning. In turn, this prepares students for real-life situations and the job market.

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Making Classroom Celebrations Special

20 December 2016 / Leave a Comment






So........ we are STILL in school until Thursday!!!  We are spending our last few days with fun classroom celebrations!  Today was dedicated to The Polar Express. We dressed in our favorite PJ's, comfy slippers, stuffed animals, and blankets.  We all had a golden ticket to enter the room and I punched messages on the tickets.  It was great to see my kids as just sweet little ones in PJ's. We tend to forget they're just little kids and need play and imagination.  We enjoyed cookies and hot cocoa at the exact point in the movie when the waiters are serving hot cocoa. 
It was magic!!
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6 Ways to Recharge During the Holidays

17 December 2016 / 1 comment
Here are 6 ways to recharge, relax, and decompress over the holidays!

Let's face it...teaching is hard. It is exhausting- mentally and physically. We end each day with a long sign of exhaustion and then, have to get ready for the next day. Winter break gives us some much needed time to recharge our batteries. It gives us the time to decompress and relax.
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